Architecture, Benoy, Design in education, Global Business School, Saudi Arabia Vision 2030, School design

Benoy’s design for the Global Business School in Jeddah reflects Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

International architecture firm Benoy has recently revealed the design of its latest project, the Global Business School (GBS) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Expected to open in 2020, GBS will offer executive education programmes in collaboration with the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and SC Johnson College of Business of Cornell University, both in the US, and the Imperial College Business School in the UK.

Intended for students from across the kingdom as well as other countries, GBS was designed in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 to develop a progressive, knowledge-based economy. The brief asked for a design that could accommodate both male and female students and encourage social engagement and innovation.

“The design is an architectural response to technological changes in both business and education,” said Barry Hughes, global design director at Benoy. “Innovation is like video calling, social media and distance learning, while facilitating communication and learning from a distance, have also given rise to individual isolation.”

Evoking Benoy’s dedication to create paces that inspire users and that positively impact society and the environment, the project spans an area of 31,336m2, with its core academic, executive education, administrative and faculty facilities spread across six levels. While the larger south wing houses the gym, sports area, auditorium, knowledge centre and student dining halls, the north wing houses the innovation centre, faculty offices and teaching accommodation. The latter has a smaller footprint, and features a distinctive form.

“The design of GBS is intended to encourage collaboration and communication,” said Hughes. “Early in the design process, Benoy sought to create a space that would feel like a combination of a traditional academic building and the kind of collaborative workspace tech companies inhabit. Clusters of soft seating are dispersed throughout the school, offering a place for an individual to relax, or a group study session
to meet.”

According to Hughes, the project fosters interaction and community bonding through a number of design features. Its “social heart” is the internal street that runs between the two masses of the building. This glass-enclosed atrium provides a visual connection between the inside and outside, as well as a vertical connection with each level.

“The cascade of floors opening into the atrium is a dynamic setting for informal social, intellectual and creative exchange,” he said. “A grand stair running parallel to the atrium links the ground level to the fourth floor Knowledge Center. This stair encourages both increased physical activity and more impromptu communication between different levels of the building. Lobbies and meeting places – including a student lounge, seminar rooms, lockers, and seating areas – are organised around the central atrium.”

One of the school’s key gathering spaces is the student dining hall, which anchors the ground floor on the northern end of the building; the reception space for executive education anchors the other end of the atrium. These two spaces serve to knit the building into the surrounding context.

“GBS wanted a building that would serve as a symbol of the institution’s ambition and the world-class educators and curriculum,” said Hughes. “The smoothly undulating façade establishes a distinctive identity for the school, while the flowing skin symbolises the flow of information.”

Hughes added that light, shadow and transparency work together to blur interior and exterior into a singular flow of space, with the reflective skin intended to dematerialise, symbolically releasing the school’s knowledge and energy into the surrounding community.

“On a more pragmatic level, the massing is crafted to minimise the amount of direct sunlight reaching the main atrium,” he said. “The deep set ribbon windows and reflective skin are angled to mitigate solar gain, while simultaneously allowing a significant amount of natural light into the building. The fourth level of the building is stepped to form an external terrace allowing students a private place to study outside when the weather allows.”

Using a minimal palette, the undulating skin of the building consists of polished metal cladding, while the interior features more texture through the use of wood and stone. The intention is to create a bright, warm and inviting interior, said Hughes.

“The landscape is a critical part of the building with undulating lines of hardscape continuing the flowing lines of the building out into the surrounding context. Ribbons of green continue the undulating theme, broken only by the line of paving which flows from within the building and out and across the landscape deck,” he added.

Intended to suit its environment while also reflecting the “global aspects of GBS”, the façade of the building opens itself to the nearby Route 5 Highway, inviting the community to observe and connect with the institution. Its massing and articulation, however, are purposely “forward and modern”.

“They express the dynamic possibilities of faculty and students alike, as they begin to make their mark not just on Saudi Arabia but on the global stage as well,” said Hughes.